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Kazakhstan Urged To Drop Criminal Case Against Instagrammer Over Satirical News

Kazakhstan - Administrator of the satirical public Qaznews24 Temirlan Ensebek at the exit from the police building. Almaty, 15May2021.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging Kazakhstan to drop charges against a 25-year-old blogger accused of "disseminating knowingly false information" on his now defunct satirical Instagram account.

Police detained Temirlan Ensebek for questioning on May 15 after they searched his home in the Central Asian nation’s largest city, Almaty, and confiscated a laptop and two mobile phones.

If convicted, Ensebek could face up to three years in prison.

Ensebek created the Qaznews24 Instagram page last month in which he joked about the situation in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic and mocked, among other things, the state sponsored personality cult around former President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

The Qaznews24 account had garnered more than 5,000 followers before being deleted.

"Respecting and protecting free speech means allowing people to express criticism and satire without fear of retribution," HRW said in a statement on May 20.

The New York-based human rights watchdog urged the Kazakh government to "amend or repeal laws that criminalize peaceful expression of critical views, such as article 274 of the Criminal Code, to prevent further arbitrary prosecutions that violate human rights."

"The authorities may be trying to send the message that satire has no place in Kazakhstan, but all they have shown is that they can't take a joke."

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